Amazon Ring Fined $5.8M – Employees Had Unrestricted Access to Customer Videos

Amazon-owned smart doorbell company Ring agreed to settle a lawsuit filed against the company by the Federal Trade Commission regarding privacy and data security concerns, according to a filing Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

According to a filing, Ring will pay $5.8 million as part of the agreement.

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According to the FTC, Ring gave employees unrestricted access to customers’ sensitive video data and,

“…as a result of this dangerously overbroad access and lax attitude toward privacy and security, employees and third-party contractors were able to view, download, and transfer customers’ sensitive video data for their own purposes.”

Ring Doorbell

As part of the FTC agreement with Ring, valid for 20 years, Ring must disclose to customers how much access to their data the company and its contractors have.

In February 2019, Ring changed its access practices so that most Ring employees or contractors could only access a customer’s private video with their consent.

Ring — acquired by Amazon in 2018 in a $1 billion deal — is used by millions as a form of security. Still, the FTC alleged Ring employees had unrestricted access to footage on customers’ home security systems.

“Ring promptly addressed these issues on its own years ago, well before the FTC began its inquiry,” a Ring spokesperson told Insider. “While we disagree with the FTC’s allegations and deny violating the law, this settlement resolves this matter so we can focus on innovating on behalf of our customers.”

In one instance, a Ring employee viewed thousands of recordings from at least 81 female Ring camera users between June and August 2017, according to CNN.

“Only after the supervisor noticed that the male employee was only viewing videos of ‘pretty girls’ did the supervisor escalate the report of misconduct,” the FTC alleged in its complaint, obtained by CNN. “Only at that point did Ring review a portion of the employee’s activity and, ultimately, terminate his employment.”

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The FTC further alleged that employees of a third-party contractor in Ukraine also had access to customer footage with little restrictions before July 2017, according to CNBC.

“We will continue to prioritize privacy, security, and user control as we pursue and improve technologies to help achieve our mission of making neighborhoods safer,” Amazon’s vice president of public policy, Brian Huseman, said in a July 2022 statement.

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